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Sat Nov 17, 2012, 12:29 PM

Agnostic Prayer: Calling for Help to Come

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-greenberg-phd/agnostic-prayer-calling-for-help-to-come_b_2129110.html

Judith Greenberg, Ph.D.Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU
Posted: 11/14/2012 4:05 pm

After a couple of weeks of painful news, I've been thinking about the power of prayer. Don't get me wrong, I'm virtually an atheist. I value ethical actions from a humanitarian point of view and I respect science. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I joined a friend as he unpacked boxes of water-logged photos and memorabilia from his parents' car after their home on the Jersey shore was flooded. My kids and I baked for their school drive to raise money for victims and we carried blankets and coats, flashlights and wipes to a JCC collection site. I have no intention to pat myself on the back for these acts. I actually feel a kind of survivor's guilt after the storm. Although I live in New York City, I came out unscathed. The worst that we suffered was my kids going a bit stir crazy during a week off from school. We didn't even lose power. Engaging in charitable and helpful acts is simply the right thing to do.

But why, then, prayer? I started thinking about it during a yoga class I attended the other day. Two teachers volunteered to lead a special post-Sandy class with proceeds going to people in need. At the end of class, one of the teachers explained that we were directing our energy to those suffering and we yogis chanted a series of collective "oms." I know -- it can sound ridiculous. How could our "energy" after sweating, physically contorting and even meditating help people sitting in the cold and dark mourning the loss of their homes and possessions?

As I meditated during shavasana, or "corpse pose," the final resting pose of a yoga class, I wondered whether our collective chant, call or prayer could actually help others.

There is a prayer in Judaism for the sick, the Mi Sheberakh, in which the rabbi asks members of the congregation for names of ailing loved ones. People contribute specific names and this plea for those individuals' health becomes a collective recognition of the wish for healing. In some ways, I thought while meditating in yoga class, the collective energy for the victims of the hurricane was a form of a Mi Sheberakh, a communal call for healing and compassion.

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Reply Agnostic Prayer: Calling for Help to Come (Original post)
cbayer Nov 2012 OP
Warren Stupidity Nov 2012 #1
cbayer Nov 2012 #2
Warren Stupidity Nov 2012 #3
cbayer Nov 2012 #4

Response to cbayer (Original post)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 11:02 AM

1. Intercessionary prayer has been tested and, surprise, does nothing

For the supposed beneficiaries. On the other hand it satisfies the need to do something by those doing the praying, so it might actually reduce the benefits received by those in need.

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #1)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 11:21 AM

2. While I agree that there is nothing to support the idea that there is

an intervention of any kind, I think saying it does *nothing* is a stretch.

If "prayer" offers some people a chance to reflect, ask themselves questions or even just be still for awhile, there may be benefit.

I have seen no data to support you last contention.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #2)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 01:38 PM

3. I didn't say it did nothing: it probably reduces real activity on the part

of the people doing the praying. As I said, that probably has a net negative effect on the supposed beneficiaries. I agree I have no data, it is merely a conjecture.

You have no data to support your supposed positive benefit, but again you are claiming a benefit for those praying, not for the targets of the prayer. I'll pass on that. I don't really care if it makes the prayees feel better. That was my point regarding the targets: if the prayees feel better, some of them may in fact decide to do nothing more than pray.

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #3)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 01:41 PM

4. Again anecdotal, but I have not found that those that pray for intercession

reduce their other activities. You may be right and it would be an interesting study.

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